“Bush? That band from the 90’s with that guy who’s married to Gwen Stefani?” The same. Gavin Rossdale and his reworked outfit have emerged from a 10 year absence to deliver us their fifth LP, The Sea of Memories. Naturally, when a band returns from such a drastic break, they’re met with skepticism. However, this isn’t the same band from 1996. They’ve evolved their post-grunge tendencies, absorbing a more modern rock sound that’s slightly hit or miss.
Somewhere between their sophomore effort, 1996’s Razorblade Suitcase, and 1999’s slightly experimental The Science of Things, Bush started dabbling between post-grunge, alternative rock and quasi-electronica. It worked and it didn’t work. Some might argue it polarized their fanbase. What’s great about The Sea of Memories is that there’s a more solid blend to absorb here.
What’s not so great is the lack of finesse. Longtime fans will point to the absence of Nigel Pulsford – and possibly bassist Dave Parsons, but probably not – and they’d be correct in doing so. Judging from the group’s two new singles (“Afterlife”, “The Sound of Winter”), it’s apparent Rossdale can still strum and croon no differently than he did back in ’94. However, there’s this sense of urgency in the songs here that plows through the more meditative tones previously heard on past efforts. “Baby Come Home” dives straight into poppy chord progressions, “All My Life” opts for bland metal crunches, and “The Heart of the Matter” sounds like a filler track on a Three Doors Down LP.
But where Pulsford is missed, Rossdale and drummer Robin Goodridge do come through at times. The piano-driven ballad “All Night Doctors” contains Rossdale’s finest vocals in years, while opener “The Mirror of the Signs” punches and kicks in all the right places, thanks to Goodridge’s precision. Admittedly, guitarist Chris Traynor has his moments, too. It’s just when he’s minimally tweaking areas. Still, he lacks the ability to build an atmosphere that Pulsford trademarked over four records.
It’s probably the weakest entry from the group, but at least there’s plenty to take away here. That’s more than you can say about Rossdale’s previous effort, 2008’s Wanderlust. And while it’d be great to have Pulsford around, Rossdale continues to trek forward and evolve his own style, which is always admirable. What The Sea of Memories does is inject some life into the Bush brand, proving that Rossdale isn’t ready to call it a day. Some might scoff at that, but certainly not his fans.
Essential Tracks: “All Night Doctors”, “The Mirror of the Signs”